Webcurios 24/05/24

Reading Time: 41 minutes

Are you excited? Are you tumescent with rising anticipation! THAT’S RIGHT EVERYONE, WE GET TO DO ANOTHER DEMOCRACY!!!

Thing is, my obvious happiness at getting rid of this shower of dreadful cnuts who have fcuked the country in half over the course of the past 14 years is somewhat mitigated by the p1ss-weak nature of their likely replacements and the very real fact that, for a significant proportion of those set to be defenestrated from Parliament, this will make not one marginal iota of difference to their lives and circumstances – in fact, for a lot of them, it will be a net benefit. Do you think Messers Hunt, Rees-Mogg, Shapps et al will give anything resembling a flying one when they hear the bell toll on July 4th? No, they won’t, because they and so many of the rest of these appalling, double-figure-IQ mediocrities are INCREDIBLY FCUKING RICH, and will in fact be at liberty to become considerably moreso at the point they are no longer ‘constrained’ (lol) by the fact of being, at least in theory, a public servant.

Anyway, fcuk the tories, kick them so hard they can’t get back up again for a decade or so at the very least, and pray to god that the incoming lot are marginally-less milquetoast in the face of corporate interests than I fear they will in fact be.

(a note to the non-English reading this – yes, I know you don’t give two fcuks about the democratic process taking place in a country that can best be described as ‘second tier’ (on a good day) but please indulge my momentary excitement at the thought of not having to hear from Rishi Sunak ever again. Oh, by the way, my personal money is on that stumpy little nonentity ending up at Andreessen Horowitz come August, so let’s see shall we).

I am still Matt, this is still Web Curios, and I promise you will get significantly less swearing over the course of the next 10,000 words or so (sorry about the length, again).

By Jordan Bolton (images this week all courtesy of This Isn’t Happiness)



  • World Sim Redux: Ok, so *technically* this is a repost, but given that a) the original site went offline about 72h after I put it in Curios a little while back; b) it’s now on a slightly different url; and c) it now has a whole additional side to it, I feel it’s ok to remind you of its existence – also, it is still slightly-mindblowing to me. Per my last writeup, “Imagine a text adventure in which the whole premise is ‘you’re god. On Day 0 of creation. GO!’ – well that’s what this is. Built on some LLM – I think it’s using Claude – this is one of the most amazing, dizzying, silly, brilliant applications of the tech that I’ve seen in ages – to be clear, it is utterly pointless, but it is also SO beautifully set up. Tell the programme to create humans – watch and see what sort of humans it creates. After creating the heavens and the earth, land and sea, I asked for some fauna and the system became bizarrely obsessed with developing a unicorn-based economy for my humans to exploit. Create plagues! Create existential conundra! Tell every single living creature they must engage in blood sacrifice to avoid the wrath of the capricious, all-seeing God-creature that oversees their every waking moment! I spent about an hour with this this week and I can’t stress enough how wonderful it is – I strongly advise you to just leave it in a tab and pop back in when you fancy messing with an imaginary universe at a deep, even cellular, level.” This is still quite, quite incredible – and now, on landing,  you get to choose whether to go straight into the ‘imagine the infinity of creation and then start fcuking with it like some sort of capricious deity’ bit or whether instead to play around with an AI-enabled website imaginer, which does something similar to another link from a few weeks back and lets you get the machine to ‘imagine’ websites about whatever you want it to. This is…I don’t know, most stuff pertaining to AI and creativity leaves me very cold, but I find the possibilities and the sheer scale of the ‘imagining’ happening here to be really quite spectacular. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m just going to go and inflict some plagues on my medieval peasants and see what happens (turns out that having complete godlike dominion over a planet’s worth of nonexistent AI-generated ‘people’ is also a surprisingly decent way of unearthing any sort of latent psychoses you might be harbouring!).
  • Brainbridge: I’ve been vaguely aware this week of the resurrection of the (mad, utterly implausible) ‘we can do head transplants now!’ story, but until I opened my emails this morning and saw this great tip from Mike Hurl (THANKYOU MIKE HURL!) I wasn’t aware that the lunatics claiming to be able to LITERALLY SWAP YOUR HEAD ONTO ANOTHER BODY also have a website – and WHAT a website it is! “Safer. Faster. Reliable”, it claims (safer than…safer than what? The previous attempts at doing this sort of thing, presumably undertaken by Nazi scientists and charming funsters like Princess Bathory?). You’ll be reassured that the tech is ‘AI Powered’ – no details as to what sort of AI, but, well, FCUKIT IT’S AI! – and possibly excited to learn that not only do they say they can CUT YOUR HEAD OFF AND PUT IT ON SOMEONE ELSE’S NECK, but also that they are working on solutions that will enable full face transplants, boasting of “face and scalp transplantation to restore functionality and aesthetic appearance. Younger donor tissues reduce the risk of rejection and enhance appearance” (…anyone else here vaguely-unsettled by the potential implications of ‘younger donor tissue’?), and, apparently…some sort of neuralink-like brain/computer interface? Or telepathy? It’s really hard to tell, but there’s definitely something a bit esoteric-sounding about the claim to enable people to “execute tasks independently using their thoughts.” This is gloriously, wonderfully, utterly batsh1t – so I can imagine each and every one of you is currently reading this thinking “Matt, tell me how I can possibly get involved with this organisation so very obviously at the vanguard and cutting edge (lol) of medical science!”. You’ll be gratified to know that they are ‘recruiting’ – it’s unclear from the website whether that’s for staff or for guinea pigs, but don’t let that trifling uncertainty put you off signing up!
  • Tactical Vote: For those of you in the UK, a website to help you work out how best to use your ballot on July 4th to get rid of these fcuking cunts and replace them with…well, frankly another pretty uninspiring bunch of mediocrities, but a change is as good as a rest. Right? This is one of a number of tactical voting sites you can choose from – I’ve included this one because it seems relatively free of any weird or creepy subtexts, unlike this other one which is being fronted up by some genuinely dreadful Twitter politics egotists (and, bizarrely, my mate Jon), but there are multiple others available – but, frankly, it doesn’t matter where you get your tactical voting advice from so much as it does that we all do the right thing and make sure that the Conservative Party gets its ar$e handed to it, electorally-speaking. In all likelihood it won’t make much difference to anything – if you’d like a small insight into why I think that, email me and ask me about exactly who Sir Keir Starmer and Ed Miliband had a meeting with 18 months ago, and what they said in that meeting – but at least you will have tried, and that’s basically all we can ever do.
  • The Obliquiscope: Ok, full disclosure – this is a) a link to something you have to pay for; and b) the person who makes it is a friend of mine. BUT! I love both the idea, and the execution, and I get the feeling a few of you will do so too. The Obliquiscope is a small bit of coloured perspex and its sole purpose is to make you THINK ABOUT WHAT YOU ARE LOOKING AT. Which is a small thing, but it’s a nice reminder to think critically about everything and that simple questions are always worth asking, even about things that you think are familiar and known and banal. I’ve had one of these for a while, but now they are COMMERCIALLY AVAILABLE and they’re just a nice, pleasing object which I think lots of you who work in strategy and planning and made-up jobs of that ilk might like, or which might tickle the brain of a particular type of curious teenager in interesting ways.
  • XOXOFest: Hm, ok, so this is ANOTHER link to something you have to pay for, and ANOTHER link to something by someone I sort-of know – sorry! I promise Web Curios is not about to become one of those incredibly fcuking irritating newsletters which tries to sell you stuff! I have nothing to sell but my sou…oh, no, sold that in 1997, fcuk’s sake! – but I think loads of you might be interested in this. XOXOFest is ‘an experimental festival for independent artists and creators who work on the web’, taking place in Portland, Oregon, USA (sorry, you probably didn’t need the elaboration there, but I thought it worth making it very clear to people in the UK that this is FORRIN) in August, which brings together all sorts of interesting people who make the sorts of things that I write about in here every week, for talks and music and I think a general sense of Slightly Geeky (and probably moderately-socially-awkward) Fun Times! It’s worth taking a look at the lineup and seeing who some of the people involved are – Mollie White, for example, Ryan Broderick, people from The Pudding, Annie Rauwerda from Depths of Wikipedia – to get an idea of the general vibe, but I think if you Make Things On The Web then this will generally be right up your street. XOXO has been dormant for a few years, and the affection its held in and the lineup mean that it’s likely to be enormously-oversubscribed, so they’re operating a ballot system for tickets (which are $250 for the whole thing, which feels pretty decent value) – you have til 29 May to apply for one, should you fancy popping along.
  • Unitree G1: Do you have a spare $16k (minimum) knocking around? Would you like to use that money to purchase a bipedal, vaguely-humanoid robot? WHY?!?! Still, if the answer to that question was, inexplicably, ‘yes please!’ then you will be thrilled by the Unitree G1 – this is basically a Boston Dynamics ripoff from China, at a fraction of the cost, but which, based on what I’ve read and the videos on the site, also has…significantly-less functionality. Would you like a robot companion that can…squat? Awkwardly flip a slice of bread into a frying pan? Stand up on its own from a prone position? WELL THEN IT’S YOUR LUCKY DAY! I asked a few friends what they thought the point of this was, and the universal replies were basically along the lines of ‘some weirdo is going to try and fcuk it’ – which, honestly, if anyone attempts ANY sort of congress with this, based on the less-than-subtle motor control exhibited in the promo materials, they are going to be well on the way to nullodom before you can scream “DEAR GOD NO LET GO OF IT AAAAAAAAAARGH”.
  • A Quite Impressive Bit Of AI Animation: To be clear, the output here isn’t that impressive – it still looks janky, and it’s very short – but what *is* is the workflow involved, and the simplicity of it, and how quickly the ability to do this stuff is evolving. Basically what’s going here is someone filmed some footage of themselves walking about, mocapped themselves, turned that mocap into a cartoon, then inserted that cartoon into a static image from Midjourney – all using simple, free(ish) tools that have been developed over the past few months. This sort of stuff feels like the Good AI, if there is such a thing – augmenting the creative impulse rather than striving to replace it – and I am really curious to see what genuinely mad stuff teenagers are going to start making with these things in the next year or so. If you ‘do video’ or ‘visual content stuff’ it really is worth having a read of this (short) Twitter thread, because the potential here is insane.
  • Generating 3d Landscapes From Cartoons: Vaguely-related to the above, this is a paper rather than anything you can play with but contains enough examples of what the tech is that you can get the idea – all very early and shonky and experimental, but the general idea here is about using AI to generate 3d models of an environment (in this case, interiors) from visuals from cartoons; so, for example, creating a 3d flythrough of the Simpsons’ house from a bunch of clips of the show. Which, if you stop to think about it, is kind of mindblowing.
  • Oakley Future Genesis: Earlier this year I featured a very shiny…pseudo-game-thing by Oakley, called Project 2075, set in some sort of future in which overdesigned sunglasses were the key to the future survival of the human race (or something – I confess to not being wholly across the detail here). I was curious as to What It Was All About, and it turns out that it is in fact part of a wider TRANSMEDIA (hello, 2009!) project spanning animation and a run of comic books and, eventually, god knows what else. This is the overall project site, from which you can jump into either the previously-linked Project 2075 thing, or watch the animations which explain the story and introduce the characters and, I presume, provide a bridging point to the graphic novels. The animations are all done in (I think) Unreal Engine, and are pretty high-end – the facial models in particular are really impressive – but, equally, I am already a bit jaded by the ‘LOOK AT ALL THE CHARACTERS’ REMARKABLY COOL AND INEVITABLY-PLOT-SIGNIFICANT BRANDED EYEWEAR’ gimmick. Still, it’s interesting to see a brand doing this 15 years after people like me got all frothy about this sort of cross-platform branded storytelling, and I’ll be interested to see how/if it evolves and what other elements get introduced, and if anyone gives anything resembling a fcuk – feels like a lot of money’s gone into this, and I have to say that this quote from some Oakley marketing guy makes me…quite sad inside: “Chapter One follows Max Fearlight, symbolizing Oakley’s legacy, as he undergoes an evolution parallel to the brand” – I mean, that just SCREAMS satisfying narrative, doesn’t it?
  • Fadr: MORE AI MUSIC TOOLS AND TOYS! Except this one’s slightly different – rather than like, say, Suno, which is aiming squarely at the ‘MAKE SONGS WITH THE MACHINE WITHOUT NEEDING ANY PEOPLE!’ market, Fadr is positioning itself more as a suite of AI-enabled tools to allow you to mess with and manipulate music; so offering you AI-powered remixing tools, or stem retrieval, or creating a sound palette that you can then subsequently play with…basically it’s a sidekick for producers rather than a replacement for them, and on that basis might be worth a look for any of you who make music or want to see if The Machine can finally turn your tin-eared noodlings into something vaguely-approximating to ‘tunes’.
  • Daylight Computer: Oh ffs, this is ANOTHER ‘link to maybe buy something’ – really sorry about this – but, I promise, it does look really interesting and genuinely innovative. Daylight Computer is a type of tablet which rather than having a standard screen is instead running (what looks like) a lightning-fast e-ink display, making the whole experience of surfing and browsing and reading generally softer and gentler – amazingly (to me, at least) it runs at the same sort of performance as a normal tablet, and it can play video and games and do all the things you’d expect, as well as acting as a writing pad (with stylus), and it has an app ecosystem meaning you can run Spotify, etc, on it…I have seen NO REVIEWS or writeups of this at all, and so I am not for a second suggesting you rush out and spend your hard-won pennies on it (particularly based on the…less-than-stellar reception granted to every single other bit of novel hardware released this year), but it looks really interesting and I’m fascinated to hear whether or not it is in fact any good.
  • Rip Entire YouTube Playlists: Or individual songs, but it’s the ‘get an entire playlist of songs from YouTube in mp3 format’ functionality here that struck me as really rather useful. Free, clean and, as far as I can tell from a limited time spent kicking the tires, actually does what it’s meant to.
  • Sails of Success: I know that for many people in Our Strange and Hideous Modern Age, the use of motivational mantras and affirmations and all that sort of thing is part of daily life – I don’t condone it, I don’t understand it, but I am aware that some people like that sort of thing. Whatever provides you the crutch you need! Should you be in the market for that sort of thing, if you feel that what’s holding you back from achieving your full, miraculous potential is an absence of bland pabulum cribbed from the worst self-help garbage in the world, coupled with some I-think-questionable-Joker-ish vibes – then you will LOVE Sails of Success, a TikTok channel which seems to exist solely to post AI-generated clips featuring, er, fictional pirate Jack Sparrow and a voice over which says things like “YES YOU CUT THEM OFF…BUT THEY GAVE YOU THE SCISSORS” in a bleak robotic monotone. I think this is possibly quite bad news, but, equally, it made me do a couple of horrified laughs, so see what you think.
  • British Museum x NewJeans: I am including this simply because I think it’s really smart by the British Museum and I haven’t seen it covered anywhere – they have collaborated with insanely popular KPOP group NewJeans to create a special audio tour of the museum’s collection, or at least some of the highlights, voiced by the band. Which, given the Kpop wave, is just a really neat way of immediately appealing to a completely new demographic which, it’s fair to say, probably wouldn’t be rushing to download the audiotour (or even visit the museum).
  • The Rural Indexing Project: I found this significantly more interesting than I expected to, and maybe you will too: “Rural communities are dispersed across the American landscape. The buildings and streetscapes in these places are a repository for visual trends—historical, architectural, and social—that relate to aspects of commercial, municipal, and private life. Rural Indexing Project (RIP) documents these trends as they exist in the built environment. RIP originated in 2010, and continues to document locations to this day. Roughly 1,200 communities in 25 states have been documented to date, and new material is added to the site frequently.“
  • Automated eBooks: Basically any search for a book on any topic on Amazon now is polluted by pages and pages and pages of AI-generated dreck, attempting to make a quid or two from buyers too lazy or careless or stupid to realise that they are shelling out for the product of a (not even very good) LLM. How is this stuff being spun up so quickly and at such immense scale? Well, services like this one are partly to blame – for a ‘small fee’, this site will not only generate a 100-pageish book on any topic you like, but will also help you come up with ‘ideas’ for your next terrible, AI-generated non-book. This is SO BLEAK – really, click the link and scroll down a bit and have a look at the workflow here, and then imagine the quality of what’s going to get vomited out. I have quite bad feelings about what is going to result from the sheer volume of this rubbish that is flooding the web.
  • FestGPS: Festival season is upon us! For those of you who fancy the idea of spending several hundred quid to get rained on in a field (I am being grumpy, festivals are fun, apart from Wilderness which is full of some of the worst advermarketingprcnuts in the UK, all kidding themselves that they are ‘creative’ because they make powerpoints for a living, cosplaying at being whimsical while hoovering up industrial quantities of gak), FestGPS is a really interesting idea. Connect it to your spotify account and it will ‘analyse your music taste’, cross-reference it with festival lineups from across the world, and suggest those events which might best fit your likes. As I might have mentioned in the past, I don’t really use Spotify and as such I have no data for it to draw on, and as such I can’t vouch for the quality of the recommendations, but this is free and seems like it might be worth a play.
  • The Map Of Spoons Prices: Wetherspoons, rather than utensils – this is a map which shows you the price of the cheapest pint in all of the Wetherspoons pubs around the UK, and it is INCREDIBLY USEFUL. On the one hand, I am not a fan of Wetherspoons as a business; on the other, you can’t sniff at the prospect of separating yourself from your consciousness for less than £20 for 8 pints.
  • A Brief Moment of Authorial Self-Indulgence: LOL THIS IS ALL AUTHORIAL SELF-INDULGENCE YOU DREADFUL PR1CK, MATT! This week, for reasons I forget, I was digging out an old link from Curios passim and found the temporary blog I set up after I left H+K and before Imperica were kind enough to house me; this is the resurrected copy of the final blog I wrote on the Hill+Knowlton corporate website after I quit my job (which was deleted approximately 45m after I published it, for reasons which you will probably understand should you click through and read it),  and, honestly, WHAT A TIME MACHINE IT IS. It then induced me to go back to the internet archive and dig out the original posts from 2010-12, and I found this one, and, honestly, I am ASTONISHED that a major multinational communications company owned by WPP ever let me publish this stuff. WHAT WERE THEY THINKING? What was *I* thinking (other, obviously, than “I really hate a significant part of my working life”)? Anyway, all this self-indulgent w4nk is in part just that, but also to say that it’s actually really interesting to go back to about 2010/11 and see what I was linking to and what I was saying about it – not because I was smart, or funny, or any good, but more because it’s a really interesting look at what was ‘trendy’ in digital marketing, and what I thought was going to be BIG and what I was completely, totally wrong about (ARGs! Location-based social!). It’s also sort-of sad how much of the stuff I linked to just doesn’t exist anymore – sic transit gloria mundi, innit. Anyway, this made me really misty-eyed the other day, and made me also feel quite guilty about what a total pr1ck I evidently was to work with and to ‘manage’, and I am, retrospectively, very sorry for being such a total d1ck.

By Alex Eckman-Lawn



  • The Snoop Memorabilia Auction: It’s long nee known that Snoop will do seemingly ANYTHING for money – no brand collaboration too tawdry, no grift too base – so it’s no huge surprise to see him flogging off a bunch of tat for cash. If you have ever wanted to own, say, his old Death Row Records chain (current bid $1700!), or the outfit he wore at Wrestlemania 2023 ($905!) then WOW ARE YOU IN LUCK! This has about a week or so to run, so I would imagine the prices are going to rise a bit, but if you dig through there’s actually some pretty interesting memorabilia from Snoop’s golden era scattered amongst the frankly ludicrous amount of branded tie-in tat (a first edition Snoop FunkoPop, anyone?).
  • The Ancient Greek Farm Simulator: This is *slightly* more interesting in idea than in execution, but it’s an interesting glimpse of one of the ways in which we’re going to see AI used more and more – this is basically a build of the quite remarkable ‘Smallville’ village simulator which I linked to last year, in which a bunch of AI agents with their own motivations, etc, were set loose in a small simulated environment to see how they interacted, developed relationships, displayed emergent behaviours, etc, except here it’s an ancient Greek farm. Meet Lycidas the goat herd and the other residents, and watch as they go about their tasks – farming, chatting, falling in love…you as the player can ‘interact’ with them, but in common with all LLM dialogue to date it’s hard to get them to say anything interesting, and I personally didn’t find I was given enough ability to see ‘inside the heads’ (if you will) of the agents as I would have liked. Still, this is a really interesting branch of AI research and investigation, and I’m fascinated to see how this sort of thing develops as the tech improves – you can read more about it here if you’re interested (there are also sims of a Roman fishing village and somewhere in Ancient Egypt, should you prefer a slightly different flavour of AI-simulated history).
  • Professional Lunch: ANOTHER friend link, and one that’s probably only really of use if you live in London or come here regularly – that said, if that is YOU and you like eating at restaurants, and you’re lucky enough to be able to afford to do so, then this is GREAT. Marshall Manson is a Texan in London, and he enjoys lunch – so he has started this newsletter, where he writes twice a week about…good places to have lunch. Marshall is a significantly more grown-up and professional human being than I am, and as such he writes from the perspective of someone who’s doing ‘business lunches’ (or at least who isn’t planning on doing a three-bottler), but even if that’s not your thing he is an excellent judge of food and I can vouch for a significant number of his recommendations.
  • No Web Without Women: A website celebrating innovations by women in the field of computer science, as a reminder that, despite the persistently c0ck-heavy vibe of much of compsci and webtech, a lot of it is built on the work of women. From Lovelace to Lamarr to Roberta Williams and beyond, this is a lovely and potentially-inspiring look at how various women have had a significant impact across a wide range of disciplines which are often lazily and sexist…ly (?Not a word, but it should be) male-coded.
  • Maecenium: This is…weird, and I get quite bad vibes from it but I can’t quite articulate why. On the surface, it’s a charitable foundation dedicated to the promotion of STEM and to provide funding to research – per the site, its mission is “to support and promote the pursuit of knowledge and innovation in various fields of natural and social science, including but not limited to biology, personalized medicine, chemistry, physics, mathematics, engineering, and history. We believe that scientific research plays a crucial role in solving complex problems, improving lives, and shaping the future of humanity…One of our main goals at Maecenium is to identify and support innovative, high-impact scientific projects. We believe that breakthroughs often come from thinking outside the box and exploring new ideas. Through our rigorous selection process, we identify projects that have the potential to make a significant impact and provide them with the necessary resources to thrive. Through our support, we aim to enable scientists to focus on their research without the burden of financial constraints. We believe that by investing in scientific research, we can unlock new discoveries, innovations, and solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges.” Which sounds good, right? So why do I get such bad vibes from the site? I think it’s in part the name – I now get the fantods about stuff that has this faux-antiquity vibe and a near-immediate assumption that it’s trying to trojan horse some pretty fashy thinking – and in part all the AI-imagery on the site, the fact that while only talking in the very vaguest of terms about what the fcuk it is that they want to fund or do, if you dig into the site they seem to be requesting donations at a minimum of £10k…oh, and the fact that a bit of digging suggests that the founder, one Katherine Yovanovich, PhD, seemingly has no other online presence anywhere other than on this site, which feels…weird for a supposed academic. Do any of you happen to have a clue? Am I being unfair, or am I right and is this very fcuking dodgy indeed?
  • The American Diary Project: Who doesn’t love reading other people’s diaries? NO FCUKER…actually, is that true or is it just that I am a terrible voyeur? Hm. Anyway, this isn’t creepy or voyeuristic at all, promise – instead, it’s a project designed to archive the personal journals of people from the US throughout history. “The American Diary Project was founded in October of 2022 with one simple vision: Rescue diaries and preserve the writing of everyday Americans. From our founder and executive director, Kate Zirkle: “One crisp fall day in October, I was updating my last will and testament when I was struck by the question of what to do with my journals after I pass. Should I leave them to someone? Should I burn them? Should I donate them? These questions lead me down a fruitless internet search—I just couldn’t find a suitable place to archive my writings in the U.S. Upon this discovery, I felt an instant, electric surge of “I WOULD LOVE TO DO THAT” and thus, the American Diary Project was born.”” It’s still pretty new, and not STUFFED with content, but there are examples of diaries from the past 300 years on the site and there is something just wonderful, to me at least, about going wandering around through the past thoughts and feelings and memories and fears and dreams of these strangers.
  • The Talk: You may have seen a clip doing the rounds this week of a purported conversation between Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman, about the existential horror of being alive – at one point it was being shared EVERYWHERE with all sorts of commentary about how moving it was and how DEEP, and, honestly, I don’t personally understand how the fcuk anyone didn’t see through it immediately (sorry, but I didn’t) but, obviously, IT WAS NOT REAL!!! In fact, it was an out-of-context excerpt from this series of videos, called The Talk, by Danish artist Jonas Hollerup Helle. The link here takes you to the youTube channel for the project, which features a bunch of similar imagined chats – Chris Rock and Will Smith, Cher and David Lynch, etc etc – which are produced, as far as I can tell, by editing together clips from completely unconnected interviews into a semi-coherent-seeming conversation. I think it’s worth having a think about what this implies for people’s likely susceptibility to AI content – I mean, look, just watch one of these things and it’s clear to anyone paying even an iota of attention that there is no dialogue happening, that the phrases spoken barely relate to each other, that there’s no interaction between the participants…and yet lots of people didn’t notice at all. Which isn’t to say people are stupid so much as it is to say that we simply don’t pay attention, and that that’s going to mean we’re on the cusp of some VERY interesting consequences when AI duping of faces and voices gets just a tiny, tiny bit better.
  • The Communal Plot: Via Giuseppe, this is SUCH a good idea and a lovely interface/visualisation to boot. Every day, the site throws up two different questions plotted across two axes – today’s, for example, is ‘do you prefer non-fiction or mystery novels?’ and ‘do you prefer country or pop music?’ – which you’re invited to answer by placing yourself on an appropriate space on the plot. Pick your spot and you’re shown how you compare to everyone else who’s answered that day’s question. That’s it -but it’s elegant and interesting, and I really like the correlations it can occasionally throw up, and I think there’s something here which might be worth exploring further for data analysts and the like.
  • Puzzle Canon: This very much falls into the category of ‘things I think are interesting but I really don’t understand AT ALL’ (it’s a big category, growing by the fcuking second) – (very) basically, puzzle canons are musical riddles, sort-of compositional in-jokes or challenges designed to test a musician’s ability to interpret clues within musical notation (I think). From the site’s own description: “”Puzzle canon,” “riddle canon,” “Ratselkanon,” “Enigmatic canon,” “closed canon,” all these terms refer to a sort of canon that is sufficiently strict that a single written melody can represent two or more performed melodies! One of these melodies might be the retrograde of the other, or upside-down, or higher or lower, twice as fast or slow. Only the imagination is the limit. many more possibilities exist. What kinds of clever things have Bach, Mozart and others tried? What other kinds of puzzle canons exist? Who are the unsung heroes of canon from Medieval times to the present? The puzzlecanon website is the place to find out!” The only issue I have with this is that it is VERY MUCH designed for real musicians – it’s all displayed as staves, there’s no audio to give you a reference as to what these things sound like when you get them ‘right’ vs ‘wrong’, and, as such, unless you can read music and ‘hear’ it in your head (which I very much can’t) it might remain a mystery to you. Can someone who understands this please explain it to me in a manner that a cloth-eared moron like me might comprehend?
  • Osbcurify: Another Spotify plugin, this time analysing your account to see how obscure or otherwise, compared I presume to majority streaming habits based on raw numbers, your tastes are – it also gives you information about how this is changing over time, whether you’re tending to listen to more or less ‘energetic’ music than you used to, all that sort of jazz. Potentially interesting if you like quantifying every aspect of your life, or if you’d like to keep an eye on what your ‘Wrapped’ selection is going to look like for the purposes of gaming it to make you look more ‘interesting’ based on your taste in, I don’t know, deathcore from the Faroe Islands.
  • Share Textures: ANYONE WHO DOES ANYTHING INVOLVING CG AND 3d MODELING / DESIGN – THIS IS FOR YOU! “Since 2018, we’ve been sharing textures that are free from copyright restrictions. Our collection now includes over 1500 free textures, 200 3D Models, and 50 atlases, and it keeps growing, thanks to our patrons. You don’t need to register or pay, just select an asset and click the download button. You can able to download them up to 4K resolution.” This is an incredible resource and SO GENEROUS, bless whoever’s behind it.
  • Slosh: I don’t quite understand the recent American obsession with ‘hard seltzer’ – we did alcopops 30 years ago ffs, why are you doing them again but…sh1tter? – but I am slightly obsessed with the website for new range ‘Slosh’. I don’t want to drink a single one of the available flavours (they all do that very, very North American thing of having incredibly-incongruous combinations that sound…too much, something I always find on restaurant menus in the States as well – also, black cherry and lime is, objectively, a nasty-sounding mix), but I absolutely adore the frankly insane overegging of the site – there is SO MUCH going on here, from the different types of interactivity to the music to the animations to the fact that you can pick a flavour to ‘explore’ by playing an actual game of 3d ‘beer pong’ (it’s not very good, and it’s quite annoying, but WHAT commitment!). Basically this feels like the designers all got very, very baked and just went with it, which I personally think is the sort of aesthetic all digital projects should lean into a little harder.
  • No Disposable Barbeques: Look, absolutely no shade to whoever is behind this campaign – I am sure there are lots of good reasons why disposable bbqs are a bad thing, from an environmental and safety perspective – but I find the single-issue nature of this Twitter account, going since 2020, genuinely amusing.
  • Acousitc Location and Sound Mirrors: I guarantee you that unless you are already aware of what the words in the link refer to that you WILL NOT be able to guess the sorts of devices and contraptions that are commemorated on this website. LOOK AT THE ILLUSTRATIONS! Honestly, I cried laughing at some of these.
  •  I, The Moon, The Star: I don’t quite know how to describe this – a sort of digital poem, I think – but it’s lovely. Change the words in the phrase via the drop-downs and see how the site responds – aside from anything else I really love the UI here, as well as the resulting imagery and how it fuzzes into focus.
  • Sister Mary Blaze: Look, this is religious propaganda – I KNOW I KNOW – but, equally, it’s a fcuking nun on TikTok, and who doesn’t love some of that incongruity? NO FCUKER, etc! Sister Mary Blaze is…is she a real nun? I don’t want to dig into it too deeply, but she dances to popular songs – there’s a recent vid of her doing a routine to the BBL Drizzy beat which is quite the thing – and generally seems Quite Online, and I haven’t checked into the comments but I wouldn’t be surprised to see an awful lot of children in the mentions praising her for ‘serving cnut’. It’s very much THAT sort of account, and your mileage will vary depending on the extent to which you enjoy the cognitive dissonance of a woman you’d expect to be doing a rosary and maybe polishing an apse (NOT A EUPHEMISM!) doing very, very self-aware content marketing.
  • J1zzy Jewellery: I’m not sure whether ‘j1zzy’ is the sort of thing that will get spam or profanity filtered, but let’s play it safe. Anyway, for clarity, this is a site which allows you to commission custom jewellery MADE FROM SEMEN (or breastmilk, apparently, elsewhere on the page) – per the vendors, “Whether you are marking your fertility journey, getting a vasectomy gift, surprising your partner or just want to be that much closer, we can turn your j1zz into a real gem! We love being inclusive over in the Trinkets world so both male and female j1zz can be used! (YOU MUST PROVIDE YOUR OWN SAMPLES)” – the last bit of that really finished me. Anyway, if you fancy spaffing into a jar and sending sad spaff to some strangers to be transmuted (via some mysterious process they don’t really elaborate on, from what I can tell) into very, very milky-looking ‘gemstones’ to hang on a pendant or wear on a ring or something then BOY are you in the right place. They’re unclear on volumes required, which feels like something of an omission (an ‘emission omission’, if you will, which I imagine you won’t – sorry about that), but this seems entirely legit (or as legit as you could ever say a business designed to sell you jewellery made of spunk could ever be) and as such, well, here you are!
  • Consider The Consequences: Finally this week, a genuine historical Curio updated for the digital age – Consider the Consequences “originally published in 1930 was written by  Doris Webster and Mary Alden Hopkins and is the earliest known published work of fiction that offers branching paths.  This style of fiction would go on to give rise to Choose Your Own Adventure books, Infocom text adventure games, and of course, the incredibly popular field of modern Interactive Fiction.”  It’s been replicated in Twine, and you can play it at this link, and it’s such an interesting look at mores and customs of a century ago, and it’s worth exploring, both because of its status as a precursor to basically any ‘branching narrative’ experience of the now and the way it shines a light on the social concerns of the interwar era in North America. Also, it’s a nice palate-cleanser after all that talk of j1zz.

By Photo in Moz



  • 80s Anime: Stills and gifs culled from anime from (mostly) the 80s – this is a lovely collection (not, as far as I can tell from a brief look, run by someone with an unhealthy interest in the seamier side of the medium) and has some gorgeous examples of some fantastic artists’ work.


  • Adventures in Jelly: Via Jana at Zuckerbaeckerei, this is SUCH a lovely Insta feed – would you like to see loads of pictures of moulded jelly desserts and the occasionally video of them wobbling? OF COURSE YOU WOULD! These are so, so pleasing, and while I’m conscious that there’s a vanishing number of you for whom this is likely to tickle a scratch a peculiar fetishistic itch, be safe in the knowledge that I will NEVER KNOW and can never judge.
  • Museum Bums: An account existing solely to celebrate bums in museums. Genuinely astonished I haven’t featured this before, it is PERFECT insta.
  • Cafe Good Day: Craig Mod is doing one of his Japanese walks again at the moment, and his daily emails from the road are just wonderful – I’m not a particular Japanophile or anything, he’s just so so so good at writing about the flow state that you get into when walking long distances, and about the people he meets and their stories, and the things he sees, and it’s just glorious. Anyway, this is the Insta feed of a small cafe that he found on one leg of his insane, 30km day yomps, and while it’s not remarkable in any way it is also just incredibly soothing and I thought you might enjoy it.
  • Who Designed This Garbage?: Photos of discarded designer goods packaging in NYC. No, I don’t really understand why either.
  • Turkish Sh1tposting: A window into being VERY ONLINE in another culture and language – I fcuking adore this, even if I have no idea what the everliving fcuk a good proportion of the posts mean. It’s not all Turkish – there’s some Russian stuff in there, some from Arabic nations – but the general point is ‘look at how other people do this stuff, and how it is familiar and yet very different’. Via Pietro’s always-excellent Link Molto Belli.


  • My Last Five Years Of Work: I had a conversation on Twitter this week about AI and jobs – the person I was talking to was less worried about the whole thing that I am, but they are smart and know what they are talking about, and I am happy to be disagreed with by someone who I know knows what they are talking about. At some point, though, some bloke popped up to say ‘well people have been telling me for years that AI will replace me and it’s not happened, so I think you’re talking rubbish’ (I paraphrase, but). I was curious as to who this person was, so I checked and THEY ARE A FCUKING KING’S COUNSEL. Mate, look, you are very much in the top decile (quintile? 1%) of your profession, OF COURSE YOU’RE FINE! As I feel compelled to keep repeating until I am blue in the face, a significant number of the people peddling the ‘it’s going to be additive not substitutive!’ line seem to have no idea that a vast number of white collar workers the world over do jobs that are EXACTLY THE SORT OF INFORMATION FILLETING/TRIAGING THAT AI IS EVEN NOW PRETTY GOOD AT! Anyway, whatever your feelings on the matter, I thought this article was very interesting indeed – Avital Balwit works for Anthropic, and here writes in a personal capacity about what she thinks, being someone who’s, you know, pretty close to the whole thing. It’s worth reading the whole thing, but I think these two paras are a decent summary of her argument and I find it very, very hard to disagree with her assessment: “Given the current trajectory of the technology, I expect AI to first excel at any kind of online work. Essentially anything that a remote worker can do, AI will do better. Copywriting, tax preparation, customer service, and many other tasks are or will soon be heavily automated. I can see the beginnings in areas like software development and contract law. Generally, tasks that involve reading, analyzing, and synthesizing information, and then generating content based on it, seem ripe for replacement by language models. Obsolescence is unlikely to come for all types of work at the same pace, and even once we have “human-level AI,” the effects will look very different before and after the widespread deployment of robotics. The pace of improvements in robotics lags significantly behind cognitive automation. It is improving as well—but more slowly. Anyone who makes a living through  delicate and varied movements guided by situation specific know-how can expect to work for much longer than five more years. Thus, electricians, gardeners, plumbers, jewelry makers, hair stylists, as well as those who repair ironwork or make stained glass might find their handiwork contributing to our society for many more years to come. Regulated industries like medicine or the civil service will have human involvement for longer, but even there, I expect an increasingly small number of human workers who are increasingly supplemented with AI systems working alongside them.”
  • Agents as Translators: Ok, so this is an academic paper and as such not HUGELY readable, but it’s worth at least a skim because, honestly, what its describing is pretty insane. Effectively what the paper demonstrates is that it is possible to create a ‘translation agency’ composed of different AI agents, acting semi-autonomously to translate a text – “We establish a virtual multi-agent translation company, TRANSAGENTS, featuring a diverse range of employees including a CEO, senior editors, junior editors, translators, localization specialists, and proofreaders. When a human client assigns a book translation task, a team of selected agents from TRANSAGENTS collaborates to translate the book. This paradigm simulates the entire book translation process, where agents with different roles work together to ensure that the translation maintains high quality and consistency throughout.” So, to be clear, the human input here is ‘translate this’, and subsequently the agents SELF-ORGANISE to do the work in a way that they believe optimally meets the brief. Even more interestingly, when benchmarked by human and LLM assessment, the agent translations were rated better than both human and sole LLM work. SO interesting and quite incredibly scifi.
  • Mapping The Mind of the Model: This generated quite a lot of excitement and interest this week – Anthropic, the Claude people, published this post which explains how they are coming to develop an initial understanding of how the model ‘works’ in terms of ‘what it ‘thinks’ about when it analyses a text’. It’s complicated and quite heavy, and very much at the limit of my technical understanding, but there’s a slightly more normie-focused explainer here should you want one. BONUS TECHNICAL AI LINK! – again, this is very much at the limit of my technical understanding, but there’s something really interesting about this project which effectively enables anyone to contribute to the training set of open source LLMs, effectively meaning that anyone can work to keep the central model primed with the ‘right’ information – there’s a gitub repo with all the technical info here, but a significantly more user-friendly video explainer here should you be interested. I am curious about how this guards against deliberate sabotage/pollution, but as a way of course correcting biases and lacunae it strikes me as a clever solution (thanks to Former Editor Paul for the link).
  • An Interview With Sunder Pichai: About the AI search and AI in general – I’ll be honest, this made me profoundly sad about the future of the web because it is very clear that Pichai does not give two single fcuks about the potential degradation of the quality of the general online experience as long as Google maintains market dominance (which is why he is CEO of one of the largest companies ever to have existed and I, as you know, am a webmong writing an overlong newsletter no cnut reads while sitting in his pants in his kitchen). The tenor of the answers in particular is miserable, a particular form of corpospeak that will be familiar to anyone who’s ever worked in corporate comms, and in general it doesn’t exactly fill me with joy for the next decade or so of internetspelunking. I think we need another way.
  • The MS Copilot Stuff: MORE AI COMING TO EVERYTHING! This is basically the big ad for the new AI PCs that Microsoft announced this week, but also contains more detail on the feature that everyone was getting all frothy about this week – to whit, the ability to remember EVERYTHING YOU HAVE EVER DONE ON YOUR COMPUTER, EVER, and let you find it via natural language search. I have seen a lot of people suggesting this is a PRIVACY NIGHTMARE, which I’m not quite sure I agree with – the stuff’s only stored locally rather than in the cloud, and because of space restrictions it will only go back three months, max – but I do think that the security vulnerabilities you will be exposed to if you lose your laptop or it gets nicked should make everyone think twice about enabling it. Anyway, it won’t be an issue for 99% of people who don’t want to spend a small fortune on a brand new PC, so maybe don’t worry about it just yet.
  • The Disappearing Web: Segueing on from me talking about all the dead links in past Curios, this is a report on some research by the Pew Research Centre which found that nearly 40% of webpages from 2013 are no longer accessible. I don’t care if you think the web is STUPID AND POINTLESS (although a) I do, you are wrong; and b) if you’re reading this, I have a sneaking suspicion that you don’t think that at all), it’s impossible not to see that as deeply, deeply sad. Of course, some of it will have disappeared because whoever made it in the first place wanted it to, but a significantly larger proportion will have vanished because of platform decay or, basically, capitalism. If you consider that the volume of material published online between the early days of the web and 2013 can conservatively be estimated as FCUKING LOADS – without wishing to be hyperbolic, it would comprise a significant proportion of all human written output, I’d hazard a guess – then you get an idea of how significant that is, and why the Internet Archive should be an internationally-backed initiative under the auspices of the UN or something.
  • The End of the Internet’s Art Gallery: Semi-related, this article explains all the ways in which DeviantArt, the site that basically housed all the web’s fanart and amateur visual work for a LONG time, has basically been fcuked beyond all recognition by a combination of mismanagement, bots, AI…you can guess the rest. Again, it’s significant and sad not even because of the content that it used to house but because of what it represented – a community and a platform that celebrated amateur work, which helped inspire people’s careers and which played home to nascent cultural movements like few others – and how so much of what it provided for people simply won’t be replicated elsewhere now that everything is hypercapitalised.
  • The Netanyahu Plan: OK, I am pretty sure that this is a legit source – has this been news? Have I totally missed lots of reporting on this? Because, honestly, this strikes me as QUITE THE STORY. Click in and read the whole thing, but let me just give you a flavour: “Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office recently released a PowerPoint that gives a glimpse into what the Likud Party has in mind for Gaza’s future, and the Levant region at large. On May 3, Netanyahu unveiled Gaza 2035: A three-step master plan to build what he calls the “Gaza-Arish-Sderot Free Trade Zone.” The plan was first reported by The Jerusalem Post and later by Al Jazeera. The Gaza-Arish-Sderot Free Trade Zone would encompass the 141 square miles that make up the Gaza Strip, where more than 34,500 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in the past several months, and where experts say that famine is underway. The zone also would include the El-Arish Port to Gaza’s south in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and Sderot, an Israeli city north of Gaza…Today, Gaza is at the nexus of a historic trade route in the Middle East between Cairo and Baghdad, and Europe and Yemen. Gaza 2035 would capitalize upon this geography by adding new east-west rail service between Alexandria, Egypt, and Gaza City, Palestine. It would also add north-south rail service between Gaza and NEOM—the speculative $500 billion Saudi city roughly 130 miles south of Rafah. All of this connectivity would open up the opportunity for tech companies, factories, and “electric-vehicle manufacturing cities” to migrate to the Gaza-Arish-Sderot Free Trade Zone, the document said.” I mean, fcuking hell.
  • The Lack of Artistic Engagement With COVID: Apologies for linking to a Twitter thread, but it’s a really interesting one – Jessica Ellis starts by writing “Welcome to the weird era I’ve been warning about since the pandemic started with scripts, where everything is either bizarrely set in 2019 for no reason, or the year is never mentioned”, and goes on to talk about what this refusal to engage with the topic means for art and culture, and what we lose by not doing so. Smart and interesting and a bit concerning if you think about it for more than 5 minutes.
  • What 3M Did: This is VERY long, but it’s also very much worth reading because it becomes one of the more staggering examples of corporate malfeasance I’ve heard of in recent years. HOW much poison have you polluted the world with, 3M??? It is very hard to read this without thinking that a significant number of people involved with the events here mentioned ought to be in prison, and that it’s fcuking disgusting that, inevitably, they never will be.
  • Captain Corelli’s Machine Gun: Excellent essay in the LRB about Italy, fascism, its role in WWII and the country’s singular failure to ever meaningfully address the fact that IT WAS A FASCIST DICTATORSHIP. This made for uncomfortable reading for me at points, I have to say – it’s never nice to be reminded that your grandfather was part of an occupying colonial force which did some very, very bad things (although my grandad was an administrator rather than a fighter and as such was, I think and hope, only tangentially complicit rather than directly) – but it did remind me of an astonishing photo I saw of his from his time in Asmara, featuring a train of camels and soldiers rounding a scrubby hill and a massive, white Hollywood-style text sign which had been erected just above them, reading, simply, ‘DUX’. Oh, and for anyone feeling smug about the fact that their grandparents were all on the right side of history, my granddad was tortured by the English when he got captured – EVERYONE DOES BAD THINGS IN WAR, EVEN THE GOOD GUYS. Mind you, he was always an unapologetic fascist even into his 90s, so maybe he deserved it (one of the benefits of almost all of your family being dead is that you can say stuff like that with impunity).
  • Aging Global Gig Workers: I know a…I was going to say ‘surprising’, but actually given the sorts of people I know and *waves* The Way Things Are perhaps it’s not in fact that odd…anyway, I know quite a few people who at various points over the past few years have had to pick up gig work to make ends meet, whether as delivery drivers or shop assistants – this is a piece in Rest of World looking at how this is playing out around the world, and how people everywhere are having to come to terms with the fact that retirement might not ever be a thing again for the majority of the world’s people, and automation means that a lot of the ways you might have expected to be able to eke out a living as an Older Professional might not exist anymore.
  • Touching Computers: Brilliant digital creative type Spencer Chang wrote this a couple of months ago, but I totally missed it – I LOVE THIS SO SO SO MUCH. Please take a moment to read this short project explainer, in which he describes MAKING WEBSITES THAT LIVE ON PHYSICAL OBJECTS – effectively embedding an NFC chip into a piece of plaster or something that creates a physical object which, when touched with your phone, takes you to whatever site you choose, like a sort of physical digital business card…I got so excited about the possibilities of this sort of thing when reading it, maybe you will too.
  • DJs on What It Is Like In The Club Right Now: A bunch of DJs write about how the job has evolved in the age of social media and MODERNITY – I found this super-interesting as someone who doesn’t really go to clubs anymore (I am 44 years old, and I do not want to be the wild eyed man with the whirling jaw and melting face who causes all the younger people to think ‘please don’t ever let that be me’) in terms of the changing way in which Being A DJ works, and the way in which crowds and atmosphere has shifted – anecdotally, I have heard from people who are actually DJs that playing in the UK at the moment feels a bit flat compared to other countries because a) we are all miserable after 14 years of these fcuking cnuts fcuking everything up; and b) all the kids take ket, which I am sure is a fun time for them but perhaps doesn’t lend itself to the most jump-up of party atmospheres.
  • A Grand Don’t Come For Free At 20: Another great bit of writing on The Quietus, looking back at Mike Skinner’s second album and the time and place that produced it – I’d forgotten how irritatingly ubiquitous ‘Dry Your Eyes’ was that Summer, but fcuk me was it inescapable – and how Skinner influenced so much of what came after him despite noone else ever really *quite* sounding like The Streets did. Still not as good as Original Pirate Material, mind.
  • Being Tradwife: For Eater Magazine, Amy McCarthy spends a weekend trying to ape the sort of ULTRADOMESTICITY evidenced by the most iconic of tradwife influencers, making her meals from scratch and just been an all-round model of a hyperefficient and doting 1950s housewife. SPOILER: it is hard and not very enjoyable, and I refuse to believe that making your own mozzarella is worth it – the article, though, really *is* fun.
  • A Hairsplitter’s Odyssey: Selected highlights from a new book called ‘Dictionary of Fine Distinctions’, which explores the, er, distinctions between ostensibly very similar terms – so, the difference between ‘despot’, ‘tyrant’, ‘dictator’ and ‘autocrat’, for example, and why they ARE NOT SYNONYMS FFS! This is wonderful and I really, really want a copy of this book now.
  • A Book of Surrealist Games: A scan of a book from 1995, all about the parlour games invented by the surrealists to explore language and to, well, BE SURREAL. This is really interesting, taking you from ‘automated writing’, where you just…write, in stream of consciousness, without stopping, for a fixed period, just to see where your mind goes, to ‘The Truth Game’, in which everyone has to answer questions truthfully and which is illustrated in the example given by the rather arresting enquiry ‘how do you reconcile your love of women and your taste for sodomy?’ and the even more arresting ‘what do you say at the moment of climax?’ and its subsequent answer ‘Generally I say ‘Fernande’ (that’s my sister)’. This is…quite the read, and I should warn you that it contains at least two instances of a VERY BAD RACIAL SLUR as early as page 11/12, should you wish to avoid it on that basis. DIFFERENT TIMES EH?
  • The Beauty of Concrete: I found this SUPER-interesting – all about the evolution of building methods throughout history, and why, rather than the post-20thC architectural style of minimal ornamentation on buildings being born of cost-consciousness and problems of scaling labour, it’s in fact nothing of the sort and is simply a factor of the ‘victory’ of a certain type of aesthetic, and, as the author Samuel Hughes concludes, “In the first half of the twentieth century, Western artistic culture was transformed by a complex family of movements that we call modernism, a trend that extends far beyond architecture into the literature of Joyce and Pound, the painting of Picasso and Matisse, and the music of Schoenberg and Stravinsky. Between the 1920s and the 1950s, modernist approaches to architecture were adopted for virtually all public buildings and many private ones.”
  • Reading Disco Elysium: A collection of critical essays discussing the themes raised by the videogame Disco Elysium. If you haven’t played the game then this might not mean much to you – but if you have, and if you enjoyed it, then this is GOLD; it’s rare that a game is intelligent enough to warrant this degree of critical analysis, but in this instance it’s entirely merited. I think I have said this before once, but, even if you don’t think you like videogames, I cannot recommend Disco Elysium highly enough – it is smart and funny and heartbreaking, it has a truly brilliant soundtrack, and it is simultaneously very game-y and the least videogame-y game I have ever played. It’s the best game I’ve ever read, or the best book I’ve ever played, and I really really really urge you to give it a try if you have the means – it’s available on pretty much every platform, and you almost certainly won’t regret it.
  • The Sorry State of Men’s Hygiene: I might have mentioned this before, but one thing I have learned from spending time on Reddit is how many people have what seem to me to be quite catastrophic issues with their gastric health – here, the author takes a brief, unpleasantly-scented safari through the general state of men’s bottoms, based once again on ‘stuff people say online’. While some of the stuff you see on there is very much of the old school ‘making stuff up online because it’s gross/funny’ sort, there are enough comments about people leaving…unpleasantly-fecal stains on their bedlinen to suggest that there are an awful lot of men who for some reason have never learned the rudiments of, erm, well, cleaning themselves. This is sort-of horrific, but compelling.
  • Turkmenistan: Ok, this is all in Italian but you can translate it (if you don’t have the COMMON DECENCY to speak my mother tongue) with a click, and it’s VERY good – the author visits Turkmenistan, hope to the largest concentration of marble edifices anywhere in the world (who knew?) and some top-quality mad dictatoring. Obviously as with all of these sorts of pieces there’s a slight sense of ‘hm, yes, but it’s not all lols is it, lots of people here are having A Very Bad Time’, but equally this is very well written and not played for laughs too hard, so I will give it a pass.
  • Italian Sunday Lunch: As this piece notes, the concept of the ‘massive six hour Italian meal with 36 relatives and 300 dishes’ is something of a trope, and not entirely representative of anyone’s actual reality in 2024 – and it was always a Southern Italian thing rather than a Northern Italian thing anyway. That said, there was a period when I was small, and fewer members of my family were dead than are currently, when Sunday meals *were* a bit like this – my grandfather literally in a string vest drinking a couple of bottles of genuinely DREADFUL wine (he used to go and get it from a bloke he knew outside Rome a couple of times every year, filling four demijohns with this terrible gutrot, my grandmother having a really miserable time in the kitchen, and various assorted family and friends sitting there having a jolly old feed…anyway, look, this is a NYT piece and therefore it’s Italo-American and a bit ‘plastic Mario’ for my tastes, but I can’t lie that it made me powerfully nostalgic and will likely make you feel VERY HUNGRY.
  • The Bongo Man: The extraordinary life story of one Jose Duval, and his wife Daniele – Jose was a bongo star, but that didn’t stop him from loving his wife very much. This is a weirdly-heartwarming love story that features, as you might expect for a tale that spans the 70s and 80s and involves people who have sex on camera for money, a quite astonishing amount of cocaine. Jose sounds like he had a great time, and he and Daniele had a seemingly happy if…er…unconventional marriage, but my GOD this has some incredibly dark undertones.
  • What Time Is It?:  This is about someone getting dementia – it is absolutely heartbreaking, and I can’t pretend I didn’t slightly lose it at a couple of points and have to stop reading. BUT! It is also beautiful and if you can deal with the subject matter I think it’s a really, really good piece of writing by Jeff Wood.
  • Boys Being Boys: Finally this week, a story about male friendship and booze, and the way in which the two things go hand in hand, and whether the first exists if you take the second away. This is very ‘rural smalltown America’ in detail, but I think the themes are pretty universal and I thought it was superbly told.

By Shannon Cartier Lucy